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Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Phases of an internship in France

Well tomorrow marks the end of my first full month in my internship; this marks the end of Danielle’s second month. During this first month I always came home and talked about my feelings with the internship with Danielle. Danielle, being a month ahead of me could relate to everything I was saying as it seems she went thru the same feeling/phases I did at about the same point in time in internship as I did. Finding it quite humorous I’ve decided to go through the phases we both went thru during our first month to give you all a peek at how my first month went. Neither one of us having completed an internship in the States it’s hard to say whether or not we would have had the same phases or similar ones had we not been in France; however here they are for your enjoyment.

Phase 1: This isn’t so bad
During the first few days the internship is almost exciting. It’s something new to do with my days and I’m getting paid! The work isn’t glamorous by any means, but it’s tolerable and hey it’s just an internship.

Phase 2: I gotta get new internship now!
After the newness has worn off I now realize that I’m not learning any skills and get so bored that there’s no way I can stay here and do this for 6 months. Feel the need to find an internship in my field that’s going to teach me the skills I need and give me that quality experience I’m in need of to get a good job.

Phase 3: I guess I can hold out for 6 months
Come to terms with the fact that it’s more logical to ride out with this internship since I already have it and it was so difficult to find in the first place. New plan now is to ride out for at least the 3 mandatory months then start looking for a job.

Phase 4: I think everyone thinks I’m weird or is talking about me behind my back
Here’s where the language starts to come into play. You don’t speak much at work, not unless you’re spoken to. You listen to conversations in the office but don’t participate unless it’s a yes or no answer. When I go get lunch I simply get up and leave instead of asking if anyone wants something or saying that I’ll be back in a bit. I feel that it probably seems odd to them since they always announce their arrivals and departures, etc. I also have a sneaking suspicion that they talk about me and my language ability behind my back.

Phase 5: I can’t do this for 6 months!
Back to similar feelings as in phase 2, now strive for a position where I feel more accepted and can get better experience. Realize in reality though that’s not gonna happen.

Phase 6: I think they’re finally letting me into their “group”
The French aren’t the most welcoming of people and it’s difficult to make friends with them. It took 3 weeks for them to even ask me any kind of personal question and only after these 3 weeks did they find out I went to school in Malibu (which they were quite excited about because of Baywatch!). Suddenly they’re actually trying to involve me in their conversations. Now feeling a little more accepted and not as paranoid as before that they’re talking about me; however, still feel they probably think I’m an idiot.

Phase 7: Oh more responsibilities, maybe I should stay
Supervisor has a meeting with me informing me that they want to give me more responsibilities and things to work on. Ok, maybe I will get some good experience and maybe even more responsibilities in the future. I should stay, I mean after all I’m already here and am finally entering their “circle”.

Phase 8: I have NOTHING to do and I’m so bored
The extra responsibilities have yet to fully surface and I find myself with less work to do a lot of times. Starting to surf the internet more for my own purposes but still worried someone will catch me so always have some of my work in a window that can quickly be pulled up. Slowly developing a tolerance for boredom.

Phase 9: Who cares what they think about me
Keeping in mind that they can’t really fire me unless I do something horrible, and still reminding myself that I’m only an intern I stop caring as much what they think about me and don’t even bother trying to hide
that I’m surfing the net for my own purposes. At this point even start looking for jobs while at work.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Just say no to Olympic Games Paris 2012

So here's the article from today's where they talk about yesterday's national strike day. It seems that "coincidently" the Olympic committee actually was in Paris yesterday surveying the city. Oh you silly French that's no way to win the games.

PARIS, France (AP) -- Planes, trains and metros were canceled, and postal workers and teachers stayed home in a nationwide day of defiance Thursday against government economic policies -- notably plans to let the French work longer hours.

For Paris, where commuters crammed aboard the few trains running, the timing was unfortunate. The strikes coincided with a visit by Olympic inspectors assessing the French capital's bid to host the 2012 Summer Games.

Tens of thousands of protesters marched through Paris, answering the call of unions for a massive turnout to defend France's 35-hour workweek and to push for more jobs and salary talks. Protests nationwide drew big crowds, including 35,000 people in Bordeaux and 25,000 in Marseille, police said.

Rush-hour road traffic snaked for kilometers (miles) outside the capital; many schools were shut; and French newspapers devoted their front pages to the mess. Conservative daily El Figaro carried the banner headline: "France Paralyzed."

Paris' commuter trains were badly hit by the strike which started after rush hour Wednesday and was to last until early Friday. Up to 80 percent of suburban lines were suspended.

The Paris Metro was severely disrupted, with two of the city's 14 subway lines not running at all. Most Paris buses, specially bedecked with flags to welcome the International Olympic Committee visitors, were running but service on a dozen lines was rerouted because of street demonstrations.

Nationwide, roughly half of high-speed TGV trains, the pride of France's rail network, and one in three slower Corail trains were running, the SNCF said.

Across France, 55 cities suffered various degrees of disruption, with the Riviera city of Nice crippled by a complete lack of bus service.

Strikes by air traffic controllers meant delays of up to several hours for some air travelers at the two main Paris airports, Charles de Gaulle and Orly, operator Aeroports de Paris said. Less than 20 percent of the controllers were off the job but enough to disable a critical control center south of Paris, Aeroports de Paris said.

Tuning-in to the latest news updates wasn't easy. Some all-news radio stations, including France Info and France-Inter, were disrupted by staff walkouts, forcing them to fill airtime with music.
France's postal service said 15 percent of its employees stayed home, while half the nation's teachers skipped class, according to the SNES trade union.

Europe-1 radio reported some 60 candidates were eliminated from a teachers' examination because they couldn't get to the suburban testing center on time.

In a sign that the street pressure was working, Civil Service Minister Renaud Dutreil announced plans to meet this month with unions and "without any taboos" attached to the talks.

Much discontent is over proposed reforms to France's welfare system and labor laws. France's conservative government, trying to control its deficit line with European Union limits, wants the French to contribute more to their health care and has trimmed the generosity of state pensions. Public sector workers oppose plans to reform the 35-hour workweek to allow more overtime.

The government is seeking to temper anger, mindful that a national referendum on the European Union constitution in May could turn into a vote against the government.

Francois Chereque, of the moderate CFDT union, said labor leaders have no intention of budging.
"The CFDT is very attached to the 35-hour workweek," he said. "We will defend it until the end."
Unions pledged not to disrupt the Olympic committee's visit and were working Thursday with Paris police to ensure that protesters and the IOC inspectors did not cross paths.

Trade unions have pledged support for Paris' bid and say the strike's timing was unrelated to the IOC tour Thursday of the Eiffel Tower and other proposed competition sites.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

National Strike Day

So today apparently was National Strike/Protest Day in France. So what it seems to me was that it was a day for anyone who had something to say to not work and come out and say it. Sure I've already seen days like this several times since being in France. It seems every other Saturday there's a massive parade of mixed protesters marching down the street out front of my apartmen. But this one topped them all and I guess that's why it was called National Strike Day. For today the transportation went on strike. That's right even the metros. And apparently my metro line that I take to work was one of the worst. But hey at least it was still running, just less frequently. So I thought I had seen a crowded metro before but oh I had no idea how crowded it could get. So here's the story. On my way home from work I go down on to the platform to find it already packed. Usually when leaving work at rush hour the metros run every 2-3 mins. So here I am on an already crowded platform where I wait for about 20 mins or so. So I think you can imagine the amount of people that built up given that the metros are now running about every 20 mins as opposed to 2-3 mins(and they're often packed even then). Just when I'm thinking I might go ahead and attempt the bus, the metro comes. It pulls up and all I see when it's passing me are people crammed in so bad that their faces and hands are pressed up against the windows. So imagine my excitement to try and fight for a spot on this train. But I figure I've already invested 20 mins into this so I'm gonna try. I manage to get one of the last spots on my part of the train and am pressed against the door for the ride. That is until the first stop where people actually try to get off. At this point I manage to get a little further into the train but am then pushed so hard that I'm not even standing up straight anymore but am not falling b/c there are so many people around me that they're holding me up somewhat. Needless to say it was quite an interesting ride home that even involved a screaming lady and crying baby. Don't think I've ever been so happy to get home.

As for other events of the day I'm not sure what all happened as I was at work. Nick however did go for a run and got to watch/participate in a part of the march. He decided to hop out and head home once he started noticing the cops were wearing full riot gear the closer he got to Nation(a busy hub).

And so now National Strike Day is over, everyone in Paris suffered to some degree from it yet we'll all go back to work tomorrow just like any other day, even those who were on strike today. So basically it seems nothing will get solved in my opinion. But for some reason the French just can't go two weeks without striking out against something and every now and then they must host these massive demonstrations. At least they're kind enough to warn everyone that they'll be striking a few days before it happens. But as Nick, Danielle and myself have concluded after witnessing a day like today: Don't give Paris the 2012 Olympics!!!!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

My first week in the real world

So I’ve finally started my internship and have successfully completed my first week. The work isn’t that exciting and I’m not so sure I’m learning that much which is kind of disappointing. However, I really enjoy the people I work with and the environment is cool and there are only about 14 or less people in the office. Everyone is really laid back and no one is too rigid about the rules. The whole area is open too and they all chat all day long so I get to listen to them chatting away in French which I think is going to be great for my listening comprehension. I’m still too scared to talk too much but I try to speak a little more every day. Thursday we had some people from the Italian office in so we had a party that night. That was really a lot of fun as I finally got to meet more of the people I work with and spoke a lot in French and had the opportunity to really chat with everyone. And of course there was tons of Champagne so that is always a treat for Kristine. So for those of you who are wondering what exactly I do, here is my attempt to explain. Basically my company teaches English to employees at companies. So the company creates an account and its employees sign up. Then before they start their lessons they take a preliminary test in order to assign them a level so as to assess what their type of English training will be. So then the professors grade their exams then I get their results and look over their ranking and what the professors assigned them and what they wrote and I make it look good and make sure the levels are correct. I then enter the levels into their database and send off the results to the clients. So really it’s not very exciting work and can be very redundant. But I do enjoy looking through the results of all the exams. It’s fun to see what they wrote and what all they missed. However, I’m hoping at some point I can get more responsibilities and actually learn a little more about business. Well that’s about it as far as how my first week went and what I do.

In other news, I have purchased train tickets to go to Berlin over Easter weekend! I then purchased a plane ticket to fly into Budapest the first weekend of May and a ticket to fly out of Prague and back to Paris for the end of that same weekend. The plan is to Stay in Budapest for a while then go to Vienna then to Prague then back home just in time to go back to work. In France that’s a big holiday weekend so we have some time off work. I’m so very excited! I have two friends in Vienna from Euromed so hopefully we’ll be able to meet up and they can be my translators/tour guides. Oh it’s gonna be nice to be traveling again, it’s been a while. I’ll be certain to take lots of pictures and update everyone after the trips.

Just further updates on the weather, it’s still been snowing and sticking a bit. It’s very pretty but very very cold. I think I’m actually ready for spring to come.

Other than all this not much has been going on. Went to a gala on Friday which was interesting as are most French parties. Had some trouble with a taxi driver and had my first experience with the French police. Stupid taxi driver had to play the English card with the Police, but it got all worked out in our favor so that’s good.

Well it’s been a hectic week so sorry I was absent for a while. I’ll try to stay in touch more in the future.